Potash, and byproduct salt, are produced from Federal leases in southeastern New Mexico. New Mexico ranks first in U.S. production of potash, providing 75 percent of domestic production. In 2012, potash mining provided about 1,500 jobs in New Mexico, generating a payroll of over $98 million. The following table shows the quantity, sales value, and royalties from potash and salt production from Federal lands in New Mexico in fiscal year 2013. Fifty percent of revenues derived from leasing of Federal minerals are shared with the State.
Sales Vol. (tons)
Muriate Of Potash
Potash is a trade name for potassium bearing minerals used for fertilizer. Two potash minerals are mined in New Mexico, Sylvite (potassium chloride), the main constituent in the agricultural fertilizer known as muriate of potash, and Langbeinite (potassium-magnesium sulfate).
The principal use of potash is as an agricultural fertilizer (plant nutrient) because it is a source of soluble potassium, which is one of the three primary plant nutrients required for plant growth and maturation. The remainder is used in chemicals and pharmaceuticals, salt substitutes, soap, matches, glass, and storage batteries.
During the Permian Period, a broad and shallow inland sea covered much of the southwestern United States, extending northward from west Texas into northwestern Kansas. Slow but continual subsidence beneath all parts of this vast Permian basin caused deposition of a thick sequence of Permian red beds and evaporites, including dolomite, gypsum, anhydrite, salt, and potash. Portions of the Permian Basin in southeast New Mexico contain commercial deposits of potash, known as the Carlsbad Mining District. The potash deposits were discovered in 1925, and the first commercial production occurred in 1931.
In 2013, there were 126 Federal potash leases covering 161,000 acres in New Mexico. There are three active conventional underground mines operated by two companies. In March 2012, the BLM issued a Record of Decision approving the development of a solution mine to recover remaining potash ore from previous conventionally-mined underground workings, known as the HB Solar Solution Mine Project.
Secretary’s Potash Area
Sedimentary rocks below the potash zones contain significant oil and gas resources. The first major discovery of oil in southeast New Mexico, the Artesia Pool, occurred in 1924, one year before the discovery of the potash deposits.
In 1926 and 1929, over 9 million acres of public land in southeast New Mexico with potential for potash deposits were withdrawn from settlement, location, sale, or entry, and reserved for classification and in aid of legislation. In 1939, the Secretary’s Potash Area (SPA) was established by Secretarial Order in the area known to have the greatest potential for commercial potash deposits.
Initially, the SPA withdrew approximately 43,000 acres from oil and gas leasing and development for the express purpose of protecting potash. In 1951, the SPA was expanded, and the management policy was changed to one of concurrent development by the oil and gas, and potash industries. Today, the SPA covers a total area of 497,630 acres and includes 350,617 acres of BLM managed surface acres and operates under concurrent development of both oil and gas and potash resources. The SPA currently produces 75 percent of the potash mined in the United State and is also home to nearly 800 Federal oil and gas leases.
Recently, a comprehensive strategy to overcome decades of disagreements and litigation was agreed to through a consensus document between the oil & gas and potash industries. With representatives of both industries working together, relationships between the industries have improved, scientific discussions of the issues have begun, and new ideas have been identified for the orderly development of potash and oil and gas in the SPA.
2012 Secretarial Order for Co-Development of Oil & Gas and Potash Resources in Southeast New Mexico
A new Secretarial Order to promote orderly and safe development of oil and gas and potash development in the Designated Potash Area in southeastern New Mexico was announced by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on December 3, 2012.
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